As most eyes focused on incoming freshmen and former prep teammates Marcus Smart and Phil Forte — for good reason — Kamari Murphy arrived at Oklahoma State under the radar.
Not for long.
Smart, a McDonald's All-American, remains in the spotlight as a proclaimed difference maker for the Cowboys. And Forte seems fitted for a role, too, as an outside shooting threat off the bench.
But Murphy finds himself in an impact role as well, using a strong preseason push to earn a spot in the starting five for Thursday night's exhibition game against Ottawa, Kan. Tip time is 7 p.m. inside Gallagher-Iba Arena.
It's early, for sure, and Cowboys coach Travis Ford figures to experiment with several combinations and could eventually mix and match lineups to opponents. Still, the 6-foot-8 Murphy made an impression from the outset with his practice work habits and his skills.
“Kamari Murphy is a young man who is pushing our inside guys right now,” Ford said. “A guy whose motor never stops. He plays until exhaustion. He's always trying to rebound, always tries to get a piece of the ball. He posts harder than anyone we have on our team.
“He's got to do more with it when he gets the ball. But he runs the court. And he has a great understanding of the game. You tell him to do something, he does it.”
Murphy, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., played last season at IMG Academy in Florida. He averaged 20 points, 10 rebounds and three assists for a team that finished 28-2 against prep school competition.
The previous year, he was ranked as the No. 6 player in the state of New York, according to HoopScoop.
For now, Murphy fills the starting spot vacated by the loss of Brian Williams, who is out for the season while recovering from wrist surgery. Athletic and long, Murphy could be key in accounting for the production and energy Williams provided.
Men's Exhibition Basketball
Oklahoma State vs. Ottawa, Kan.
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Gallagher-Iba Arena, Stillwater
TV: FSN (Cox 37)
Radio: KXXY 96.1 FM
Three things to know:
*The Cowboys return three starters from a year ago.
*Brian Williams, a fourth starter, is out for the season following wrist surgery.
*Ottawa, an NAIA team, returns four starters from a team that finished 12-18 a year ago.